How will the major tech players transform the customer experience and shape the future of our connected world? Jeff Blackman, managing director and IBM lead at Havas New York, is well-positioned to answer that question. With 15+ years of experience in digital marketing, Jeff has seen the field evolve. “Now it’s about the confluence of the digital experience and broader customer experience across many touch points,” he says. Jeff is passionate about merging ideas born out of data, narrative design, and experience, and he believes this will be paramount in a marketing landscape has become highly fragmented.
Read the full interview below.
The Mag: Let’s begin with Apple. The company recently launched a new iPhone and a new Macbook, but for years, critics have argued that they have an innovation problem. Apple has also recently announced plans to halt self driving car Project Titan.
JB: I was surprised they killed the car. It was realistic that Apple could become a car company when a car is a fundamentally different thing. If a car is a pod that takes you from point A to point B, then it is really about the experience, the design. And so Apple linking media, devices, your car, it just makes sense. But they figured out it’s really hard to make cars. Of course, that doesn’t mean Apple can’t be a componentry to the in-car experience.
Apple is still trying to find the next category to disrupt. It could be healthcare. (Are we not really understanding the master plan behind the Apple Watch?) I’m a huge fan of Apple; I’m excited about where they’re going to find the next big win. Until then, they’re still very profitable, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They’re sitting on boatloads of cash. What are they going to do with that money? They could go and buy a car company.
The Mag: Funny you should say that, because there are some people who think Apple should buy Netflix. Now, there are so many different streaming platforms: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Google just launched Unplugged. And then Apple has Apple TV, but they don’t have a streaming platform. What do you see happening between these players?
JB: That’s the other thing everyone is waiting on from Apple, too. Are they going to be able to figure out the whole TV thing? The first one to figure out how to negotiate the deals with the networks and with the telcos can win. Right now, the way that whole industry works is that it’s very locked down. There’s a reason you can’t just select the channels you want to watch. Apple is chipping away at it because you can subscribe just to the HBO or Showtime app and pay monthly. Much in the same way that Apple negotiated the way music worked, they did the same thing when the iPad came out and they were getting publishers on the platform.
The Mag: Do you think Apple will end up winning?
JB: I think it could be somebody else. What Apple has is the advantage that I’m already networked into their platforms. So am I going to choose a different box that isn’t Apple TV? I like to have my Apple TV synced to my iCloud and my iTunes. And if I download a movie at home and I’m going on a trip, I know I can pull out my iPad.
The Mag: An advantage other platforms have is content, especially original content. But will the differentiator be the experience?
JB: Right. It’s a question of do you win at TV because you become a network in and of yourself but don’t quite have the infrastructure, or is because you have the infrastructure and everything’s connected—
The Mag: And you make all the deals and get all the content.
JB: I think it’s the latter. I have a ton of respect for what Netflix has done with original content. They’ve become a network versus just a syndicated reseller of content. But long-term, there’s going to be a lot of content available for Apple to leverage. I also think the content economy is super complex. It takes careers to figure out how all the programming works. The reality is that if you’re a content creator, you own the rights and can negotiate where your content lives, so it’s rarely exclusive. It may be windowed for a period of time on one network, but eventually they syndicate it out. So who created the content at first isn’t going to matter.
The Mag: One tech giant we haven’t talked about yet: Twitter. They just killed Vine, there had been some bids that fell through. What are your thoughts on their future?
JB: It’s crazy because on the one hand, they’re the heartbeat of so much of what we consume: sports, television–it is the second screen app, politics, media. They just can’t figure out how to monetize. I think that the future of Twitter probably lives in one of two places: 1) It becomes highly specialized. It’s made huge progress–better than any other social app, I think–in terms of how it’s a companion to the TV experience. And then if you look at the natural extension of advertising, it makes sense to bring the two together. 2) It’s bought by a company that doesn’t have a big social play that desperately needs it. You know, I could see Google buying Twitter.